Thursday, July 17, 2014

What Audubon Called the Birds, Part II

In the last edition of What Audubon Called the Birds, I focused on some old bird names that we should go back to using.  Well, I'm back with more bird names - straight from the 1800s.

Carolina Turtle-Dove - now known as Mourning Dove
As a Carolina-born birder, I get a little sense of pride every time I hear a bird with "Carolina" in its name.  Carolina Chickadee, Carolina Wren, Porzana carolina - why not have Carolina Turtle-Dove join the ranks?  Have you ever seen a Mourning Dove actually look sad?  Hell no.  They sit on tree branches and power lines, chase each other around, and eat seeds.  Sure, their call is "mournful", but so is literally every other dove's song.  Carolina Turtle-Dove only makes sense here (though I would accept a shortened "Carolina Dove" as well).

Much better.
Ferruginous Mocking-bird - now known as Brown Thrasher
I love the word "ferruginous", so I may be a little biased.  But Brown Thrashers aren't exactly brown, as I found out.  They are, indeed, the rusty iron color of ferruginous.  I do like the word "Thrasher" though, so I think a compromise may be needed.  Let's go with "Ferruginous Thrasher" and call it a day.  It's a more accurate name, plain and simple.

Bergomaster - now known as Glaucous Gull
Burgomaster is German for "Mayor" or "Master of the Town", a fantastic moniker for this large and somewhat intimidating Larus.  I don't have any idea who started calling them Bergomasters, but I like it.  Glaucous makes me think of Glaucoma anyway, which is definitely NOT a disease a birder wants to get.
The most badass name for the most badass gull.
Great Cinerous Owl - now known as Great Gray Owl
C'mon.  Great Gray Owls aren't just gray.  They are cinerous, which is an ashy gray tinged with brown.  "Cinerous" is also tinged with just enough 19th-century romanticism to make this already-majestic bird even better.  Slam dunk.  Now if only I could see one...

Hudsonian Curlew - now known as Whimbrel
Ignoring the fact that we may return to this name anyway (or to the similar "Hudsonian Whimbrel"), I think "Hudsonian Curlew" bears a more authentic North American flair than "Whimbrel" does.  Why do we use the European name here anyway? Do we call Black-bellied Plovers "Grey Plovers"?  Or Brants "Brent Geese"?  No, we're not British.  And I want to start calling them HUCUs (pronounced HooKoos).  "Hey, did you see the big flock of HUCUs at the inlet?"  Yes, yes I did.

HUCU in North Carolina, at the aforementioned "inlet".
Acadian Owl - now known as Northern Saw-whet Owl
Some may object to changing the name of what is arguably the cutest of America's birds, but hear me out.  We need more "Acadian" birds to join the ranks of my local "pizza!" spewing Empidonax flycatcher.  Acadia was an area in the Northeast settled by the French (Acadie was the French name for Nova Scotia), a fitting location name for this little owl.  And no one knows what the sound of a "saw whetting" even is these days, so the new name is obsolete.

This owl is angry someone changed his name to Saw-whet.
I challenge the birding councils to consider my requests.  Our pastime would be much richer if we could return to these antique names.

Audubon's images from's page on Birds of America.  I feel like I should owe them something at this point.

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